Posted on April 27, 2022 by Wendy Frost

UTSA cyber competition team

UTSA’s 2022 CCDC team members include (from left to right) Ryan Longoria, Joshua Gutierrez, Dylan Gonzales, Mason Eckenrod, Henry Graham, Jacob Rahimi, Timothy Avram and Alex Bryant

A team of UTSA students placed third in the Southwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) held in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

CCDC is one of the most prominent cyber security defense competitions in the nation. Requiring students to display both technical and business skills, the competition provides a controlled, competitive environment to assess the students’ depth of understanding and operational competency in managing the challenges of protecting a corporate network infrastructure.

“I think our team did really well, especially considering that they only had one person who participated in last year’s competition,” said Ben Anderson , associate professor of practice of information systems and cyber security in the Carlos Alvarez College of Business and head coach. “These types of competitions reveal how people respond when you turn up the heat. Our team excelled in their communication and cooperative spirit.”

The eight-person team was tasked with maintaining critical technology services, responding to business tasks from fictional corporate leaders and protecting the network from attacks from a team of professional hackers.

Team members were Timothy Avram , a junior cyber security major; Alex Bryant , a freshman computer science major; Mason Eckenrod , a junior computer science major; Dylan Gonzales , a junior computer science major; Henry Graham , a sophomore cyber security major; Joshua Gutierrez , a sophomore cyber security major; Ryan Longoria , a senior computer science major; and Jacob Rahimi , a junior computer science major. The team was also mentored by assistant coaches Jose Mireles and John Newsom , who are both lecturers in information systems and cyber security in the Alvarez College of Business.

“This competition is an amazing way to gain hands-on experience in cyber defense in a controlled environment,” said Graham, the team captain. “The faculty coaches were instrumental in helping us prepare. All the hours spent preparing paid off. It was incredibly fun.”

Leveraging their experience this year, Graham and his team are already preparing for next year’s competition. They plan to continue training this summer and build a wider knowledge base of their technology expertise to improve in areas where they had deficiencies.

“These types of competitions test your ability to respond to realistic events, both in terms of hands-on experience as well as reporting,” said Rahimi. “It allow you to get a taste of the skills necessary in this industry. And you’re able to learn content that you wouldn’t be able to learn in a classroom environment due to time or resource constraints.”

Participation in competitions like this wouldn’t be possible without the support of corporate donors. This year’s team was sponsored by UTSA cyber team supporters EY, H-E-B, Home Depot and Northrop Grumman.

Future plans include expanding participation in cyber competitions and developing a robust program to train and nurture students for these national competitions.

“Students learn to think on their feet and make invaluable industry connections by participating in these types of competitions,” said Anderson. “Our goal is to build on this win and to grow the depth and knowledge of our student competition teams.”

— Wendy Frost